Being blindsided by job loss can be rough. Once you get over the initial shock, you need to gather your wits and take care of a few things right away. Even if you had a feeling the end was coming, nothing really prepares you for hearing the words “We have to let you go”. The flood of overwhelm that smacks you in the face is real. This is why I want you to have this mini action plan to follow if and when you need it.
Here are 3 Small Steps to Take When You Lose Your job:
1. Square Things Away With Your (Former) Employer
This part sucks because you will be having a lot of feelings about your employer. Save yourself a headache and try to bite your tongue and avoid leaving on bad terms if you can avoid it. If you are getting fired, this might play out a little differently but if you are being laid off due to restructuring or downsizing it will be more straightforward. You might get marched straight out of the building flanked by security with only the promise of a banker’s box of your stuff to follow. Or, you might actually be afforded some time to collect your own things and say goodbye. It can be quite a scene. Forget the drama it causes and focus on your future. No matter how it goes down, this is your life. You need to make sure you are clear on the status of a few things so you can move on with it. Things like your Record of Employment (ROE), extended health care and other benefits, retirement plan etc. If you aren’t advised of these things specifically, follow up with HR, or if you are at a small company, the office manager, or owner. Now is not the time to be passive, speak up if you have a question or concern. You also need to discuss using your employer as a reference in the future and obtaining a recommendation letter, if appropriate. Depending on the circumstances leading up to your exit, you might even enlist the help of higher ups and your colleagues in finding yourself a new position elsewhere (might as well get comfortable networking right away).
Whatever you do, please don't let your brain tell you there is something wrong with you if you are being laid off due to restructuring or downsizing. These things are often purely business decisions and are not a reflection of your work performance. A layoff is most certainly not a reflection of your worth as an employee or a human. Even if you have been fired because of something you did or didn't do, nobody is perfect. You are always worthy of respect. Some times things are not a good fit or don't work out. This doesn't have to define you, you can and will move on. If you have questions or concerns about your dismissal such as severance, consider speaking with an Employment Lawyer—especially if you were a long-term employee.
2. Contact Employment Insurance
According to the EI website: "Apply for benefits if you have lost your job through no fault of your own and always apply for EI benefits as soon as you stop working. You can apply for benefits even if you have not yet received your Record of Employment (ROE). If you delay filing your claim for benefits for more than four weeks after your last day of work, you may lose benefits".
3. Make Some Plans
You are going to need to do some financial planning first. Get your financial house in order. You need to know exactly where you sit in terms of how quickly you need to line up your next paycheck. Put together a budget, figure out where you might need to cut back, what you need to cancel, or sell, and who you need to call right away if this job loss means you are in an immediate, serious financial jam. Your instinct might be to hide and not talk to anyone but you need support now more than ever. Be open with your spouse and family. There is no shame in admitting you are in a pickle, if you are. You aren’t the first and you are far from the last. Better to seek support from family, friends, or your friendly neighbourhood banker if it comes down to a choice between keeping either your pride or your house. If your house has to go, you want it to be on your terms. If you need to downsize, that’s a perfectly acceptable option but you want to be the one to initiate it not the bank. Take this seriously. Next, you need to put together a career/job search plan. Even if this includes taking a bit of time to collect your thoughts and get your bearings before you start pounding the pavement. Don’t stick your head in the sand and let a bunch of time pass without giving thought to what you truly need and want going forward. If Outplacement or career assistance is offered to you by the employer, take it! If this isn’t an option figure out the type of help you need and find it. You’re definitely not alone. You will get another job, you should aim to get a better one than you had, if possible—even if you need to take a bridge job temporarily to pay the bills. You might feel like your entire life is out of control but it’s not. You are still the boss, and worthy of financial and career stability, but you need to get back in the driver’s seat. Don’t view this set back as more than that. It's temporary and you can survive change, haven’t you always?
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